324 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [ciI. X.
The apostle, in these words, winds up his whole argument against
the wilful despisers of the gospel, taken from the nature and aggrava-
tions of that sin, with the severity of the punishment that would cer-
tainly befal them that are guilty thereof. And these words are, as an
inference from them that go immediately before, so they are a recapitu-
lation of all that he had spoken to this purpose. Let men look to
it, look to themselves, consider what they do, for 'it is a fearful
There are three things in the words. 1. The description given of
God with respect unto the present case, ' he is the living God.' 2.
The event of their sin with respect unto him : it is ' a falling into his
hands.' 3. The nature hereof in general : ' it is a fearful thing.'
1. In what sense God is called the Qtov Â£wiroe, 'living God,' and
with respect unto what ends, hath been declared on ch. iii. 12, ix. 14.
In brief, this title is ascribed unto God principally on two accounts. 1.
By way of opposition unto all dead and dumb idols, those whom the
heathen worshipped ; and which are graphically described by the
Psalmist, Ps. cxv. 4 â€” 8, as also by the prophet, Isa. xliv. 9 â€” 11, &c.
And this is to impress upon our minds a due sense of his glory, and
eternal power, according as we are called to trust in him or to fear him.
Life is the foundation of power. He who hath life in himself, who is
the cause of all life in all other things that are partakers of it, must be
the only spring of infinite power. But God is here called ' the living
God,' with respect unto his eternal powei', whereby he is able to avenge
the sins of men. Indeed it calls to mind all the other holy properties
of his nature, which are suited to impress dread or terror on the minds
of presumptuous sinners, whose punishment is thence demonstrated to
be unavoidable. He sees, and knows all the evil and malice that is in
their sin, and the circumstances of it. He is the God that liveth and
seeth, Gen. xvi. 13. And as he seeth, so he judgeth, because he is the
living God, which also is the ground of holy trust in him. 1 Tim.
Obs. VII. This name of 'the living God,' is full of terror or com-
fort unto the souls of men.
2. The event of the sin spoken against, as unto its demerit, with re-
spect unto God, is called ' falling into his hands,' ejurrtaeiv tig ^ttpac-
The assertion is general, but particularly applied unto this case by the
apostle. To ' fall into the hands' is a common expression with refe-
rence unto any one falling into and under the power of his enemies.
None can be said to ' fall into the hands of God,' as though they were
not before in his power. But to fall into the hands of God absolutely,
as it is here intended, is to be obnoxious to the power and judgment of
God, when and where there is nothing in God himself, nothing in his
word, promises, laws, institutions, that should oblige him to mercy, or a
mitigation of punishment. So when a man falls into the hands of his
enemies, between whom and him there is no law, no love, he can expect
nothing but death. Such is this falling into the hands of the living
God ; there is nothing in the law, nothing in the gospel, that can be
pleaded for the least abatement of punishment. There is no property
of God that can be implored : it is the destruction of the sinner alone,
whereby they will all be glorified.
VER. oO ; 81.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 825
There is a falling into the hands of God that respects temporal things
only, and that is spoken of comparatively. When David knew that an
affliction or temporal punishment was unavoidable, he chose rather to
fall into the hands of God, as unto the immediate infliction of it, than
to have the wrath of men used as the instruments thereof, 2 Sam.
xxiy. 17. But this appertains not unto our present purpose.
3. Hereof the apostle affirms in general, that it is 0oâ‚¬tpov, ' a fear-
ful, dreadful thing,' that which no heart can conceive, nor tongue ex-
press. Men are apt to put oft' thoughts of it, to have slight thoughts
about it ; but it is, and will be dreadful, terrible, and eternally destruc-
tive of every thing that is good, and inflictive of every thing that is evil,
or that our nature is capable of.
Obs VIII. There is an apprehension of the terror of the Lord in
the final judgment, which is of great use unto the souls of men, 2 Cor.
v. 11. It is so to them who are not yet irrecoverably engaged into the
effects of it.
Obs. IX. When there is nothing left of judgment, nothing remains
but the expectation of it, its fore-apprehension will be filled with dread
Obs. X. The dread of the final judgment, where there shall be no
mixture of ease, is altogether inexpressible.
Obs. XI. That man is lost for ever, who hath nothing in God that
he can appeal unto ; nothing in the law or gospel which he can plead
for himself; which is the state of all wilful apostates.
Obs. XII. Those properties of God which are the principal delight
of believers, the chief object of their faith, hope, and trust, are an eter-
nal spring of dread and terror unto all impenitent sinners : ' the living
Obs. XIII. The glory and honour of the future state of blessedness
and misery, are inconceivable either to believers or sinners.
Obs. XIV. The fear and dread of God, in the description of his
wrath, ought continually to be on the hearts of all who profess the
Herein, by this general assertion, the apostle sums up and closeth his
blessed discourse concerning the greatest sin that men can make them-
selves guilty of, and the greatest punishment that the righteousness of
God will inflict on any sinners. Nor is there any reaching of either
part of this divine discourse unto the utmost. When he treats of this
sin, and its aggravations, no mind is able to search into, no heart is
able truly to apprehend the evil and guilt which he chargeth it withal.
No one can express or declare the least part of the evil which is com-
prised in every aggravation which he gives us of this sin. And in like
manner, concerning the punishment of it, he plainly intimates, it shall
be accompanied with an incomprehensible severity, dread, and terror.
This therefore is a passage of holy writ which is much to be considered,
especially in these days wherein we live, wherein men are apt to grow
cold and careless in their profession, and to decline gradually from
what they had attained unto. To be useful in such a season, it was
first written ; and belongs unto us, no less than unto them unto whom
it was first originally sent. And we live in days wherein the security
326 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [cH. X.
and contempt of God, the despite of the Lord Christ and his Spirit, are
come to the full, so as to justify the truth that we have insisted on.
Ver. 32 â€” 34. AvafiifivrjrrKEcrSe Ss ragirporepov rifiepag, ev aig (pioTicr-
Ssvtzq, 7roXXr)v ad\y)oiv vTrtjuavaTt Tra^r^fxarwv' Tovto pev, oveiEia-
fjioig re kui $\t\pe(Ti StaroiZopevoi' Tovto St, kOivmvoi twv ovrojg
avcKTTpetyofXtviov yevriOevreg. Kat yap rote Seapoig pov ovvtTraOri-
aoSe, yivioGKOVTEt; ey/iv Â£v savroig (cpeurova virapc,iv ev ovpavoig,
Ver. 32 â€” 34. But call to remembrance the former days, in which
after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions :
partly tvhilst ye ivere made a gazing-stock, both by reproaches and
afflictions, and partly tvhilst ye became companions of them that
were so used. For ye had compassion of one in my bonds, and
took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves,
that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.
The words in their coherence, intimated in the adversative Se, ' but,'
have respect unto the exhortation laid down, ver. 25. All the verses
interposed contain a dehortation from the evil which they are warned of.
Hence the apostle returns unto his former exhortation unto the duties
recommended unto them, and perseverance therein against all the diffi-
culties which they might meet withal, wherewith others were turned
into destruction. And the present argument which he makes use of
unto this purpose is this now mentioned. And there are in the words,
First. A direction unto a means useful unto the end of his exhorta-
tion : â€” 'call to mind the former days.'
Secondly. A description of those days which he would have them
to call to mind. 1. From the season of them, and their state therein:
' after they were enlightened.' 2. From what they suffered in them :
' a great fight of afflictions,' which are enumerated in sundry instances,
ver. 33. 3. From what they did in them, ver. 34, with respect unto
themselves and others. 4. From the ground and reason whereon they
were carried cheerfully through what they suffered and did : ' knowing
First. There is the prescription of the means of this duty, ava/xifivTu-
o-ke<7$e, which we have well rendered, ' call to mind.' It is not a bare
remembrance he intends, for it is impossible men should absolutely for-
get such a season. Men are apt enough to remember the times of their
sufferings, especially such as are here mentioned, accompanied with all
sorts of injurious treatments from men. But the apostle would have
them so call to mind, as to consider withal what support they had under
their sufferings, what satisfaction in them, what deliverance from them,
that they might not despond upon the approach of the like evils and
trials on the same account. If we remember our sufferings only as
unto what is evil and afflictive in them, what we lose, what we endure
and undergo ; such a remembrance will weaken and dispirit us as unto
our future trials. Hereon many cast about to deliver themselves for
VER. 32 â€” 34.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 327
the future, by undue means and sinful compliances, in a desertion of
their profession ; the thing the apostle was jealous of concerning these
Hebrews. But if, withal, we call to mind what was the cause for
which we suffered ; the honour that is in such sufferings, out-balancing
all the contempt and reproaches of the world ; the presence of God
enjoyed in them, and the reward proposed unto us ; the calling these
things to mind will greatly strengthen us against future trials, provided
we retain the same love unto, and valuation of the things for which we
suffered, as we had in those former days. And these various events we
find exemplified every day. Some who have endured trials, and came
off from them, do grow immediately more wary, as they suppose, and
more cold really as unto the causes of their sufferings. The remem-
brance of what was afflictive in their trials, fills them with fear of the
like exercise again. Hence they grow timorous and cautious as to all
duties of religion, and the worship of God, which may expose them
unto new sufferings ; and then some of them by degrees fall absolutely
off from attendance unto them, as it was with some of these Hebrews.
Such as these call to mind only that which is evil and afflictive in their
sufferings ; and taking the measure thereof in the counsel or representa-
tation made of it by flesh and blood, it proves unto their damage, and
ofttimes unto their eternal ruin. Others who call to mind with their
sufferings the causes of them, and the presence of God with them therein,
are encouraged, emboldened, and strengthened unto duty with zeal and
Obs. I. A wise management of former experience is a great direction
and encouragement unto future obedience.
Secondly. As to the object of this duty, the apostle so expresseth it,
'call to mind, rac -rrporspov i)fxepag, the former days.' It is uncertain
what times or seasons the apostle doth peculiarly intend. Besides those
continual hazards they were in from their adversaries, and the occasional
sufferings that they were exposed unto, they seem to have had some
special seasons of persecution before the writing of this Epistle. The
first was in the stoning of Stephen, when great persecution rose against
all the church, and extended itself unto all the churches of Christ in
that nation, wherein our holy apostle himself was highly concerned,
Acts viii. 1, ix. 1, xxii. 19, xxvi. 10, 11. And the other was on the
occasion of this apostle himself; for upon his last coming to Jerusalem,
after his great successes in preaching the gospel among the Gentiles,
the whole body of the people was filled with rage and madness against
him and all the other disciples. It is no doubt, although express men-
tion be not made of it, but that at that time, the rage and cruelty of the
priests and the multitude did put forth themselves unto a general perse-
cution of the church. And this season he seems to reflect upon in par-
ticular, because he mentions his own bonds at that time, and their
compassion with him. However, certain it is, that all the churches of
Judea had suffered those things here mentioned from their countrymen,
as the apostle himself declares, 1 Thess. ii. 14. At this present time
they seemed to have had some outward peace. The occasion whereof,
were the tumults and disorders which were then growing in their whole
nation. Their own intestine discords, and the fear of outward enemies,
328 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CH. X.
by which they were shortly utterly destroyed, diverted them from pro-
secuting their rage for a season against the church. And it may be,
some began to grow careless and secure hereon ; as we are generally
apt to do, supposing that all will be serene, when one or another storm
is over. These, therefore, the apostle doth press unto such a remem-
brance of former trials, as might prepare for those that we are to expect ;
for, as he tells them, they had still need of patience, ver. 36. There is
a description of these former days,
First. From their state and condition in them : â€” ' the days ev alg
(pioriaSevTEg in which they were enlightened,' or rather, 'in which
having been enlightened.' The mention of this their illumination,
being in a tense of the time past, manifests that their enlightening did
precede those days of their sufferings. But yet the expression is such
as argues a nearer conjunction or concurrence between those two things,
their illumination, and these days of affliction ; the one followed, as it
were, immediately on the other. This enlightening was that work of
God's grace, mentioned 1 Pet. ii. 9 ; their translation out of darkness
into his marvellous light. They were naturally blind, as were all men,
and peculiarly blinded with prejudices against the truth of the gospel.
Therefore, when God by his effectual call, delivered them out of that
state of darkness, by the renovation of their understandings, and the
removal of their prejudices ; the light of the knowledge of God shining
into their hearts, is this illumination, the saving, sanctifying light which
they received at their first effectual call, and conversion to God. This
spiritual change was presently followed with days of affliction, trouble,
and persecution. In itself it is for the most part, accompanied with joy
delight, zeal, and vigorous acting of faith and love, 1 Pet. i. 8. For,
1. God did usually grant unto believers, some secret pledge and sealing
of his Spirit, which filled them with joy and zeal, Eph. i. 13. 2. Their
own hearts are exceedingly affected with the excellency, glory, and
beauty of the things revealed unto them, of what they now see perfectly,
whereunto they were before in darkness, that is, the love and grace of
Christ Jesus, in the revelation of himself unto them. 3. All graces
are new and fresh, not yet burdened, clogged, or wearied by temptations,
but are active in their several places ; hence, frequent mention is made
of and commendation given unto the first love of persons and churches.
This was the state and condition of those Hebrews, when the days
of trial and affliction came upon them ; it was immediately after their
first conversion unto God. And it is usual with God thus to deal with
his people in all ages. He no sooner calls persons to himself, but he
leads them into the wilderness. He no sooner plants them, but he
shakes them with storms, that they may be more firmly rooted. He
doth it, 1. Utterly to take off their expectations from this world, or any
thing therein. They shall find that they are so far from bettering their
outward estate in this world, by cleaving unto Christ and the church, as
that the whole rage of it would be stirred up against them upon that
account, and all the things enjoyed in it, be exposed unto ruin. This
the Lord Christ every-where warned his disciples of affirming that
those who are not willing to renounce the world, and to take up the
cross, did not belong unto him. 2. For the trial of their faith, 1 Pet.
VER. 32 â€” 34.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 329
v. G, 7. 3. For the glory and propagation of the gospel. 4. For the
exercise of all graces. 5. To breed us up into the military discipline
of Christ, as he is the captain of our salvation. They who pass
through their first trials, are Christ's veterans on new attempts.
Obs. II. All men by nature are darkness, and in darkness.
Obs. III. Saving illumination is the first-fruit of effectual vocation.
Obs. IV. Spiritual light in its first communication, puts the soul on
the diligent exercise of all graces.
Obs. V. It is suited unto the wisdom and goodness of God, to suffer
persons on their first conversion, to fall into manifold trials and tempta-
This was the state of the Hebrews in those days which the apostle
would have them call to mind. But the words have respect unto what
follows immediately, which vTrefitivaTE, ' you endured.' The description
of this state and condition, namely, that they were enlightened, is inter-
posed for the ends we have spoken unto. Wherefore,
Secondly. The season he would have them call to remembrance, is
described by what they suffered therein. This, as was observed, he
expresseth two ways. 1. In general, 2. In particular instances. The
first in these words, 'ye endured a great fight of afflictions.' 1. That
which he would have them to mind is ' affliction.' 2. The aggravation
of it, 'it was a great fight of afflictions.' 3. Their deportment under
it, in that they 'endured them.'
1. We render this word Tra^n^artov, by 'afflictions,' although, by the
particulars mentioned afterwards, it appeared it was persecutions from
men, that the apostle only intended. And if we take afflictions in the
ordinary sense of the word, for chastisements, corrections, and trials
from God, it is true, that men's persecutions are also God's afflictions,
with the special end of them in our trials ; we are chastened of the
Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. God used them
as his furnace, and fining-pot for the trial of their faith, which is more
precious than gold. And under all persecutions we are to have a spe-
cial regard unto the immediate hand of God in such afflictive trials.
This will keep us humble, and in a constant subjection of our souls to
God, as the apostle declares, ch. xii. But the word in the original is
Tra6i)f.iaTa, which is properly ' sufferings ;' the same word that the
apostle useth to express the sufferings of Christ, ch. ii. 10, v. 8. It is
a general name for every thing that is hard and afflictive to our nature,
from what cause or occasion soever it doth arise. Even what wicked
men undergo justly for their crimes, is what they suffer, as well as what
believers undergo for the truth and profession of the gospel. Materially
they are the same, 1 Pet. iv. 14 â€” 1G. It is therefore the general name
of all the evils, troubles, hardships, distresses, that may befal men upon
the account of their profession of the truth of the gospel. This is
that which we are called unto, which we are not to think strange of.
Our Lord Jesus requires of all his disciples, that they take up their
cross, to be in a continual readiness to bear it, and actually so to do as
they are called. And there is no kind of suffering but is included in
the cross. He calls us indeed unto his eternal glory, but we must
sufler with him, if we desire to reign also with him.
330 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [dl. X.
2. Of these trials, afflictions, persecutions they had ttoXX^v aO\t)
That labour and contention of spirit, which they had in their profession,
with sin and suffering, is expressed by these words : which set forth
the greatest, most earnest, vehement actings and endeavours of spirit
that our nature can arise unto. It is expressed by aOX^aig, in this
place, and by ayu)v, 2 Tim. iv. 7, ayiovi^o/xai, avraywviZofxai ; See 2
Tim. ii. 5 ; 1 Cor. ix. 25. The allusion is taken from their striving,
wrestling, fighting, who contended publicly for a prize, victory, and re-
ward, with the glory and honour attending it. The custom of the
nations, as then observed, is frequently alluded to in the New Testa-
ment. Now, there was never any way of life wherein men voluntarily,
or of their own accord, engaged themselves into such hardships, diffi-
culties, and dangers, as that, when they contended in their games and
strivings for mastery. Their preparation for it was an universal tem-
perance as the apostle declares, 1 Cor. ix. 25. And an abstinence from
all sensual pleasures ; wherein they offered no small violence to their
natural inclinations, and lusts. In the conflicts themselves, in wrestling
and fighting, with the like dangerous exercises in skill and strength,
they endured all pains, sometimes death itself. And if they failed or
gave over through weariness, they lost the whole reward that lay before
them. And with words, which signify all this contest, doth the Holy
Ghost express the fight or contention which believers have with
sufferings. There is a reward proposed to all such persons in the pro-
mises of the gospel, infinitely above all the crowns, honours, and
rewards proposed unto them in the Olympic games. No man is com-
pelled to enter into the way or course of obtaining it ; they must make
it an act of their own wills and choice ; but to the obtaining of it they
must undergo a great strife, contention, and dangerous conflict. In
order hereunto, three things are required. 1. That they prepare them-
selves for it, 1 Cor. ix. 25. Self-denial, and readiness for the cross,
contempt of the world, and the enjoyments of it, are this preparation ;
without this, we shall never be able to go through with this conflict.
2. A vigorous acting of all graces in the conflict itself, in opposition
unto and destruction of our spiritual and worldly adversaries ; Eph. vi.
10 â€” 12 ; Heb. xii. 5. He could never prevail nor overcome in the
public contests of old, who did not strive mightily, putting forth his
strength and skill, both to preserve himself, and oppose his enemy.
Nor is it possible that we should go successfully through with our con-
flict, unless we stir up all graces : as faith, hope, trust, to their most
vigorous exercise. 3. That we endure the hardship, and the evils of
the conflict with patience and perseverance, which is that the apostle
here specially intends.
3. This is that which he commends in the Hebrews with respect
unto their first trials and sufferings, vire/jiuvaTt, ' you endured,' and bare
patiently, so as not to faint or despond, or to turn away from your pro-
fession. They came off conquerors, having failed in no point of their
conflict. This is that which they were called unto, that which God by
his grace enabled them to, and through which they had that success
which the apostle would have them call to remembrance, that they
might \>e strengthened and encouraged unto what yet remains of the
VER. 32 â€” 34.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 331
same kind. This hath been the lot and portion of sincere professors of
the gospel in most ages. And we are not to think it a strange thing,
if it come to be ours in a higher degree than what as yet we have had
experience of. How many ways God is glorified in the sufferings of his
people, what advantages they receive thereby, the prevailing testimony
that is given thereof unto the truth and honour of the gospel, are com-
monly spoken to, and therefore shall not be insisted on.
Ver. 33. â€” Partly whilst ye were made a gazing '-stock, both by re-
proaches and afflictions, and partly whilst ye became companions
of them that were so used.
Having mentioned their sufferings, and their deportment under them
in general, he distributes them into two heads in this verse : The first
is what immediately concerned their own persons ; and the second, their